Grainger: Scottish Songs of the North; Lukannon

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Scottish Songs of the North; Lukannon
PERFORMER: Stephen Varcoe (baritone), Penelope Thwaites (Piano)
Of the 21 pieces in this collection, no fewer than 13 are previously unrecorded. All are strongly melodic and rhythmic. It seems incredible that these are premiere recordings of such splendid songs as ‘Creepin’ Jane’, with its catchy refrain, and ‘Lukannon’ (in full), which laments seals cruelly slaughtered in their rookeries. The luminous, nostalgic evocation of the beauty and peace they had formerly enjoyed is moving indeed and shows a particularly quiet, sensitive side of Grainger, as does ‘Merciful Town’ (about the comfort of sleep and dreams). These are two of the six Kipling settings featured. The Scottish Songs of the North, with their rich harmonies, are notable too: ‘Willie’s Gane to Melville Castle’ will certainly raise a smile. Favourites like ‘Shallow Brown’ and ‘Willow, Willow’ are included too. Stephen Varcoe responds superbly to the drama and wide range of emotions of the songs, shaping their lines beautifully and adopting all the different dialects with great flair. Penelope Thwaites, an experienced Grainger exponent, provides sympathetic and penetrating support. Ian Lace